We have previously discussed how some of us view the patent, trademark and copyright laws as running out of control in this country. Now, there is an interesting fight between the United States and India over a move by Colgate Palmolive to patent an ancient recipe for herbal toothpaste. The Indians say that the recipe has been used for hundreds, if not thousands, of years by Indians and would now be claimed as the property of the company.
The recipe including clove oil, camphor, black pepper and spearmint is used widely in India and could be the start of companies claiming ownership of Indian folk medicines.
Colgate was granted the patent in the U.S. in June and insists that the recipe is a groundbreaking “red herbal dentifrice.” It is likely to argue that the addition of red iron oxide distinguishes its product from the traditional recipe.
In the meantime, India is rushing to compile a website of all of its folk medicines to create a basis for challenging these patents. I am not sure that will be sufficient if the companies tweak the ingredients with the use of things like iron oxide.